Caught up by the competition, is Samsung keeping the best smartphone from the start of the year?

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G is presented as one of the strong titles of the year 2021 in the category of premium smartphones. But what is it worth against its competitors in the market?


Samsung is the first designer to have drawn on the smartphone market in this year 2021 with the release on January 29 of its Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G. A true flagship of the South Korean brand, the device does not necessarily constitute a revolution in the Galaxy range, but erases the flaws pointed out following the launch of the Galaxy S20 Ultra in 2020 last year , and presents strong arguments to seduce the public.

Enough to allow the brand to stand out in the premium category against its fierce competitors? Apple, long in third place in smartphone sales in recent years, has taken the lead thanks to the success of its iPhone 12, available in four models. We tested the latest high-end from Samsung, presented as the most efficient on the market. Here is our opinion and the elements of comparison with its main adversaries, the Huawei Mate 40 Pro, the Oppo Find X3 Pro or even the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

A smartphone that enhances the reputation of the range … but with a high price

With the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G, Samsung wants to assert itself in force in the smartphone market. As a reminder, the South Korean brand launched in 2020 the range called Ultra, bringing together its most powerful and demanding devices. Then came the Galaxy S20 Ultra and the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra to assert the full potential of the laptops designed by the multinational. Enough to allow it to resist the technical development of Huawei or Oppo and the omnipotence of Apple. A new range which had left some users unsatisfied. Among the shortcomings noted: the low autonomy and the fragility of the camera.

Without breaking the promise of offering a premium smartphone, the S21 Ultra 5G, responds to these criticisms by offering a very competitive product and more evolved compared to its two older brothers. The Korean giant offers a refined and powerful phone that makes the know-how of its teams speak. But finesse comes at a price: between 1,259 and 1,439 euros depending on the version. Not all audiences will be able to afford this pleasure. In the market, competition appears at slightly lower prices. Thus, the iPhone 12 Pro Max is marketed from 1239 euros. The Oppo Find X3 Pro sells for 1,149 euros. To afford the Mate 40 Pro from Huawei, you have to pay an invoice of 1,199 euros. More expensive than its rivals in the premium sector, is the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G worth the cost?

An elegant but bulky phone

The Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G is attractive from the first glance with a sober and neat aesthetic. With a matt glass back, the grip is particularly pleasant. The material also helps keep the phone clean by limiting fingerprints. Still on the back of the smartphone, it is difficult not to notice the space taken by the photo unit, with its five sensors. Particularly large, the compartment occupies half of the total width of the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G. A density compensated by the left edge of the block, which forms one with the phone’s own limits, for an illusion of unity and roundness. As for the face of the smartphone, owners will appreciate the fingerprint reader 65% larger and more responsive than other Samsungs.

Overall, the latest South Korean release turns out to be thin and pleasant to handle, but somewhat bulky at 8.9mm wide and weighing 228 grams. Almost as heavy at 226 grams on the scale, the iPhone 12 Pro Max however turns out to be smaller with a width of 7.4mm. The latest Samsung smartphone is still more pleasant from the first grip. The Oppo Find X3 Pro seems able to overshadow the finesse of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G with its exemplary and polished design, like the integration of the photo module directly into the shell. If the Oppo is roughly the same width as the latest Samsung smartphone (8.26 mm), it is lighter with its 193 grams. However, the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G is not the largest smartphone on the market, the palm going to the Huawei Mate 40 Pro with its 9.1 mm width, for 212 grams.

A cutting-edge screen

Samsung does not hesitate to assert that the screen of its latest Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G is the “Best ever on a smartphone”. So, a bit of an exaggerated selling point or a fulfilled promise? We must admit that the reactivity and color performance offered by the latest title of the South Korean brand seduced us. With this 6.8-inch diagonal screen, Samsung has hit hard. For comparison, Oppo and Apple do less well with a 6.7-inch panel for the iPhone 12 Pro Max and the Find X3 Pro, just like that of the Huawei Mate 40 Pro and its 6.76 inches.

Coming back to Samsung’s latest bombshell, the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G panel titillates our irises in particular with its level of contrast and the variety of its colors. Smartphone owners who consume streaming video content on their device should be happy. During the day, you won’t have to suffer from the glare of the sun, and the light from the screen will not attack you at night. In return, the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G modifies the natural appearance of colors in a slightly artificial way. The mode “natural”, allows you to restore this defect, and to take full advantage of what is undoubtedly the best screen on the market today.

The most versatile photo module

As we mentioned in the preamble, this Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G does not break with Samsung’s fundamentals. This is particularly significant at the camera level. The premium title of the brand shows solid performance by offering nice color contrasts. Like the smartphone screen, the camera notably offers rather artificial colors, so as to make the shot more attractive and pleasing to the eye. Compared to the Samsung Galaxy S20 FE 5G that we tested recently, the move upmarket is concrete, like the difference between these two shots taken with the two South Korean devices.

In detail, the Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G offers four photo modules, with a very efficient 26mm main sensor, a 13mm ultra wide angle, a 70mm x3 optical zoom and a powerful 240mm x10 optical zoom. The photo module of the latter Samsung stands out above all for its versatility and the multitude of possibilities it offers. All for very satisfactory performances, therefore, even if fans of nocturnal shots could be hungry for more. On this aspect, it does less well than its competitors in the market, in particular the iPhone 12 Pro Max and its special night mode. The Huawei Mate 40 Pro stands out for its solid photo performance, especially in the exercise of the x10 optical zoom and the judicious integration of editing software for videos. On the new side, the Oppo Find X3 Pro is daring by offering the first x60 microscope on a smartphone to capture the finest details. It is also the camera compartment of this device that appears to be the most efficient on the market at the present time.

Strong performance

On the performance side, the first smartphones in the range Ultra Samsung had particularly disappointed in 2020. The Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G is much more efficient than its predecessors. Evidenced by the autonomy of the phone which will allow you to easily last a whole day despite prolific activity. The smartphone is indeed quite enduring for everyday tasks. Note, however, that the phone box does not include a battery recharge kit, like the iPhone 12 Pro Max.

The radical change in performance is explained by the chip made in Samsung embedded in the phone. If the Galaxy S20 Ultra and the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra worked with a chip with the sweet name of Exynos 990, it is the Exynos 2100 which equips the last title of the South Korean brand. In total, the smartphone chip released on January 29, 2021 has 12 GB of RAM, while that of the Mate 40 Pro displays 8 GB and that of the iPhone 12 Pro Max goes up to 6 GB of RAM. Overall, the Samsung is agile in the sequence of different tasks. It is in particular one of the media on which it is the most pleasant to play. The Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G asserts itself as a phone with solid performance, capable of withstanding the innovative technologies of the Mate 40 Pro, and the power of the Oppo Find X3 Pro, which for example recharges to 100% in 35 minutes.

The first two of Samsung’s Ultra line-up have visibly taken a beating last year. The last child of the South Korean family thus seems to have benefited from all the lessons learned by the technical teams of the manufacturer following some user reviews in 2020. The Galaxy S21 Ultra 5G is a phone certainly expensive, but which asserts itself as one of the essential titles of 2021 in the premium category with in particular the best screen and the most versatile camera on the market. A device to be placed in the hands of those who can afford such an expense and who appreciate large smartphones.


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